Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Things to Be Thankful For

1. A proliferation of cashmere in every price range to warm up everyone from heiresses to working-class Americans. No longer the domain of high-end department stores and exotic mail-order boutiques, cashmere can be enjoyed by almost anyone courtesy of WalMart, Target, and TJ Maxx -- not to mention Lands End, Macy's, Lord & Taylor, Filene's Basement,, Bluefly, and the sale racks at Bloomies.

2. Not one but 3 years in a row of fabulous J.Crew designs that finally make a girl look, well, like a girl. With enough foresight to hire then newly-fired Gap head Micky Drexler, J.Crew embarked in 2003 on a journey to re-invent itself. The past 3 years have borne the fruits of their talented labor with somewhat pricier yet decidedly more desirable clothes. Whether you favor the luscious cornucopia of cashmere in every style and cut, the unabashedly feminine taffeta skirts, the retro swing coats and fitted jackets, or the endless variety of bow and jewel-trimmed heels, there's no denying that this is not the J. Crew we knew (and still loved) in college, or even back in high school. Also be thankful for the terrific mid-season sales and final clearances.

3. Infinite, vivid color choices from the above mentioned retailer that brighten even the dreariest of days and make the black-addicted among us rejoice. Honestly, I can't find this exciting a color selection anywhere else. Sure, Lord & Taylor has among the largest annual assortments of cashmere sweaters, but somehow, the colors never seem to pop quite like J. Crew's "poppy," "citron," and "lapis." Ditto for Gap's tees, Victoria's Secret's coats, and even Steve Madden's shoes. It's not that the other brands don't employ color -- sometimes beautifully -- it's just that J.Crew has mastered the art of mixing up completely unexpected color combinations and unique prints instead of relying on tried-and-true seasonal hues. That's why I keep snapping up red-and-white tile print ballet slippers, purple wool overcoats, yellow tartan print skirts, and azalea colored herringbone pants -- all in the somber fall-winter months. Who said we have to wear black all winter?

4. White after Labor Day -- and even after Thanksgiving Day; Emily Post be dammed. Winter white has never been more stylish or accessible. Invest in an ivory overcoat; trust me, it goes with absolutely everything you own. Be mod in off-white boots and patent-leather loafers and don't be afraid to wear your white sunglasses -- even if you don't live in Denver and ski 5 months out of the year. Insted of wearing boring gray to work, wear a suit of white wool cuffed pants and a white jacket, then dress it up with splashes of color or strategically placed black accents. There. Don't you feel like a huge burden has been lifted off your shoulders?

5. Shoes in all shapes and heights in fashion at the very same time. Need a lift? Go crazy with 4 and even 5-inch towering heels. Have a boot fetish? Stock up on knee boots, mid-calf boots, platform boots, flat boots, slouchy boots, cowgirl boots, ankle boots, and even short booties and wear them with pants, skirts, and cropped pants. Tired of squashing your toes in pointy shoes? Rejoice for round-toed flats, pumps, and platforms. Love to flaunt your tootsies year-round? Revel in ubiquitous peep-toes. Never have more options been acceptable in a single season.

6. Hemlines and inseams of all lengths in fashion at the very same time. Dare to bare all in teeny minis or go low with below-the-knee pencil skirts. Show some leg in a Bermuda short work suit or skip in the street in your capris. Better yet, try on a forties-inspired high-waisted skirt or trousers and belt the waist show some curves. Channel the sixties in a cropped swing jacket or return to your childhood in the eighties with a long shoulder-padded 2-button blazer. Personally, I'm just happy that tights are back in style so we can wear all those winter shorts, minis, and sweater dresses without freezing our buns off.

7. Pants for all body types. While it's nice to slim down for a couple of seasons in matchstick jeans, I sure do appreciate being able to eat during the holidays. That's why the return of wide-leg pants couldn't have come at a better time. Whether you favor cuffed legs, high waists, plaids, or tuxedo stripes, wide-leg pants are back with a vengeance (I'm guessing in retalliation for too many skinny jeans forced on us). So Katherine Hepburn, and so comfortable, I hope wide-leg pants stay for a while. Now, never fear, all you boot-lovers. The bootcut jean -- the enduring symbol of the nineties -- continues to proliferate well into the second millenium. Fortunately, we have more variations than ever on this award-winning design. There are boot-leg jeans with straight legs, bootcuts with curvy hips, low-risers as well as high-waisted sillhouetes. There are even boot-leg jeans in colored denim. Honestly, I don't see this shape going anywhere for the next decade. But my personal favorite is the versatile trouser jean. It makes it easy to match with all my favorite sweaters and the streamlined shape and so slimming, particularly in a dark rinse. But the real beauty of trouser jeans is their ability to transcend all but the most formal office dress codes. It's hard to argue with a smart tweed blazer paired with trouser jeans and pumps. Yet they can also pull their weight with silky evening blouses, metallic peep-toes, and cashmere cardigans when you just don't feel like wearing a dress to a holiday party. I really dig Calvin Klein's stretch flare trouser jeans (above). A hybrid of butt-flattering back pockets and a streamlined flat plain front, these truly go the distance from weekend live-ins to night-out winners to office Fridays. I used to cringe at price tags that approached $80, but with most sought-after "middle market" brands teetering between $150 and $250 these days, Calvin Klein's $79.50 bargain seems positively reasonable. Anyway, I cannot be thankful enough for trouser jeans. Please write your Congressperson to make this a mandatory requirement at all major retailers.

8. Increasingly fabulous faux-couture offerings from Target. With most everything priced under $50, everyone deserves a guilt-free spree. My perennial darling Isaac Mizrahi has outdone himself with gorgeous party frocks as well as stunning career separates. Edgier Mossimo keeps churning out knockout after knockout in both sportswear and accessories. I must confess that I purchased 3 pairs of Mossimo patent leather peep-toe pumps, wore them with suits, and received compliments on them from unsuspecting fashionistas! Also jumping on this year's stylish accessories' train were Lulu Guinness, Devi Kroell, Hollywould, and recent addition Loeffler Randall with some particularly fetching clutches (above). Newcomer Erin Fetherston, a California girl-turned-Parisian, breathed some fresh air into fall's collection with elegantly feminine shapes and simple but flattering sillhouetes. I adore the wide leg velvet cuffed trousers (left) in a je ne sais quoi China blue. Also available is the matching cropped velvet blazer with 3 buttons and a playful shawl collar. Wear them together for a full punch or separate and mix with tweed or denim pieces. Yes, this year was truly inspiring. Let's see what next season brings. In the words of Depeche Mode, I just can't get enough!

9. Women who kick butt, take names, and still dress like a lady. Condi Rice comes to mind. Laila Ali literally does all of the above in the ring. Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova on the tennis courts. Danica Patrick on the racetrack. Cathleen Black, the head of Hearst Corporation and the first female publisher of a weekly consumer magazine. Meg Whitman, President and CEO of my all-time favorite shopping destination, eBay. The over 350,000 women -- 1 in 7 soldiers and 15% of the total personnel-- who are serving in our armed forces. And the 400,000 women who served the U.S. as nurses, pilots, and in other capacities during WWII. Not to mention these trailblazers: Harriet Quimby, the first licensed woman pilot in 1911; the female WASP pilots of WWII who flew every airplane made; Jacqueline Cochran who broke the sound barrier in 1953; the first 6 women who became official naval aviators in 1974 (the army followed and the air force followed 2 years later); Lt. Col. Martha McSally, the first American woman to fly in combat in the 90s; Major Marie T. Rossi, the first women pilot to lose her life while flying in a combat zone in 1991 during Desert Storm; and finally Major Nicole Malachowski, the first female pilot who became part of the 2006 Air Force Thunderbirds team -- this Englishwomen channels Jackie O even in khaki uniform. Plus the countless other female warriors, athletes, business and world leaders.

10. The freedom to wear whatever we desire -- be it glamorous, sexy, or transgender -- and not be stoned, flogged, or beaten to death by angry medieval-minded Ismalic fundamentalist spouses, parents, or clergy who believe that women should be covered from head to toe and neither be seen nor heard in public. As you read this, be thankful that our men and women in the armed forces are fighting this very second so you can have the freedom to not only buy what you want with the money that you are free to earn at the jobs you are free to choose but also to wear (or not wear) whatever you fancy wherever you want. And speak out to your legislators and local authorities about the brutal repression and murder going on in, yes, our own backyards in North America. Shockingly, on our very own free soil, women continue to be violently victimized by their so-called loved ones for refusing to wear headscarves and for having the temerity to speak up after being violently raped. Read this and weep:

Have a happy Thanksgiving and be thankful for all you have!